There's something about jazz and the month of April. Scores of jazz singers and musicians were born in April, including Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald who celebrates springtime with "April In Paris."
No one knows the impact of Jazz Appreciation Month better than its founder John Edward Hasse. The curator of jazz at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, Hasse reminded an audience at this year's official launch and donation ceremony of the importance of jazz across the globe.
"It's been called 'America's classical music,' 'The sound of surprise,' 'The sound of freedom,' 'The infinite art.' Whatever the label, jazz has played an immense cultural role in the United States and worldwide, opening up vast vistas of musical creativity; generating unforgettable performances and giving us iconic masters such as Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong," Hasse said. "Jazz had come to stand for such powerful American values as cultural diversity, freedom, individuality, innovation and creative collaboration."
The kickoff for Jazz Appreciation Month honored renowned flugelhorn player and composer Chuck Mangione. While he was more than happy to donate memorabilia from his lengthy career, Mangione said his trademark felt hat was the most difficult item to part with.
"It's really tough to give up a hat. It was a Christmas gift. I put it on, and then I did a concert called 'Friends In Love.' A picture was taken [of me] with the hat that was used for the cover," Mangione explained. "I put the hat aside, and I went out on the road [on tour], and [the] Mercury Records' representatives out there asked, 'Where's the hat?' [And I said], 'What Hat?' (And they said), 'The hat on the cover of the album.' So, I started wearing the hat and the hat and the flugelhorn just became a part of me."
Chuck Mangione also donated the score for his Grammy Award-winning single "Feels So Good," as well as albums and songbooks.
The 8th Annual Jazz Appreciation Month is being celebrated in all 50 states and worldwide in 40 countries. One of the biggest celebrations is planned in Estonia.
Highlights include a centennial tribute to legendary bandleader Benny Goodman, and the release of a new boxed set, titled "Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology." A full calendar of events in Washington, such as lectures, concerts and tours, can be viewed at smithsonianjazz.org.